Leela KTH is a queer Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka. He left Sri Lanka because he faced such high levels of hostility to his sexuality. In Sri Lanka, Leela had been arrested and beaten by police in a series of incidents that seem to have been set-ups or harassment concerning registration papers for vehicles.
All Leela's experiences with the police culminated in him being detained, stripped and beaten. At one stage the police allegedly threatened to put a video of him, naked and beaten, on the internet as a way to "shame" him.
The Sri Lankan penal code is homophobic - it has outlawed sodomy and homosexuality for men and women since 1995, when the law was amended to be "gender neutral". Also, the traditional response to homosexuality by some religious groups in Sri Lanka is death.
So Leela fled on a small boat with 43 other people to sail across the Indian Ocean from Sri Lanka, to the west coast of Australia. He left Sri Lanka on September 11 and was taken to Christmas Island after being intercepted by naval border security on October 2.
Leela has experienced the same fear, shame and abuse suffered by many young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transpeople people around the world, and feels that he was treated as an "untouchable"; a term that Leela uses to explain the restriction of people from most of the culture, including the already limited job market.
Adding to Leela, and many Tamils misery, war broke out in 2009 in Sri Lanka against the Tamil people. They were massacred and brutalised. In a three-month period, 52,000 Tamils were killed and 300,000 people placed in concentration camps. As a member of the oppressed Tamil population, the oppression Leela suffered was compounded.
On arrival at Christmas Island Leela told authorities his sexual orientation, explaining the shame he felt, and that he was suicidal. Homophobia exists in all cultures, and Christmas Island was no exception.
In Leela's attempt to explain his specific needs as a refugee, he had to disclose very intimate details about his sexual history and identity. When I spoke of this with Leela, he described his sexual identity as, "I have both woman and man in me," a statement that is not uncommon from intersex, sex and/or gender diverse people from around the world.
Leela is still waiting in Villawood Detention Centre. He arrived on April 10 and has been approved by the Australian government as a refugee who is legitimately seeking asylum based on his specific cultural identity; an identity that would put him at risk if he were returned to his home country. But Leela's hardship does not end there. Leela's caseworker is completing security checks from Sri Lanka, standard practice for all immigrants that apply for residency. But because the Australian government disregards the plight of refugees, they have a ‘backlog' of refugee cases that mean security checks could take up to six months. Leela could be imprisoned inside Villawood for that long, even though he has been accepted as a refugee.
Leela is anguished in prison. He is singled out in detention because of his sexuality and his mental state is deteriorating. The Department of Immigration have not been to see him for one month. CAAH activists fear he will not last the possible six months it may take to get security clearance.
We are asking you to sign this petition demanding the Department of Immigration and Citizenship release Leela from Villawood Detention Centre. We are also requesting that you ring Leela's Case Manager - an employee of the Department of Immigration and ask them why they have not moved on Leela's case.
Help Leela, and help even less fortunate refugees who are languishing in Australian detention centres while the government plays with their futures. Community campaigning is key to getting more refugees, like Leela, free.